Hellofood, a mobile app that allows users to order food from restaurants in their neighbourhood, has been a blessing to Anne Mutua, who uses the app to order meals from her workplace.
Using her iPhone, she is able to browse what she wants for lunch, place an order, and wait for her order, which she pays for upon delivery.
“My office is not located close to any restaurants and sometimes there is no time to go out to restaurants or you forget to bring food from home,” she says.
“HelloFood allows me to access a wide range of foods from a number of restaurants, which is always delivered hot in less than an hour.”
Launched last year, the app seeks to cash in on the growing middle class appetite for convenient and healthy food deliveries. It is one of the many apps and websites that are gaining popularity among Kenyans because of the way they make life easier for busy corporate workers.
Locally developed websites and apps are increasingly gaining popularity as they offer solutions for Kenyans.
The proliferation of mobile phones and increased internet penetration and advancement of technology in the country has seen new solutions coming into the market that are quickly embraced by the middle class, especially.
Compounded by a busy lifestyle, never-ending traffic and search for information, people are looking for anything that will make their lives easier.
The number of Kenyans accessing the Internet has grown five-fold to 19.2 million users as at September 2013, according to data from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). This translates to an internet penetration of 47 per cent, whetting the appetite for foreign online firms to bag this prized market base.
This has seen more log online for solutions and techpreneurs are recognising the demand and rolling out products that meet this demand.
Websites such as ticketsasa.com, eatout.com, Rupu, OLX, N-Soko Deals, Jumia and Hellofoods are only some of the sites that have gained popularity in recent years, with some having accompanying apps.
James Gathere, Rupu’s general manager of operations, says the investment in the ICT sector by both the government and private investors have enabled companies like his to thrive in a very short time.
“Without the internet, we really cannot operate. A big reason we have been able to expand and make the strides we have in the past 3 years is because of the fact that internet penetration especially after laying of the fibre optic cable has greatly improved,” he said.
“A lot more can still be done. The costs are still very restrictive and thus there is still a lot of upside potential to reach a larger number of the population.”
Other than locally-developed apps, Kenyans are also downloading international apps to ease their day-to-day lives – be it to schedule meetings, communicate with friends, educate them or offer daily solutions including travel.
“People will respond to something that serves their immediate needs,” says Dee Shah, the proprietor of www.offersafrica.com, which helps consumers’ get essential goods and services at special offer.
E-commerce has also been on the rise, with more people opting to shop online for quite a number of their requirements from food to clothes, household furnishings to holidays.
Armed with her iPhone 5, Shreya Karia embarks on her daily online routine, scouring the internet and apps to keep up-to-date with what is happening in Kenya and the world at large.
Along with her daily dose of both local and international news, she uses various apps and websites to organise her life from work schedules, fitness, cooking, choosing the right wine and travelling – among other areas of her life.
“I have tons of apps on my phone and they also in sync with my iPad and TV at home via my Mac Mini. I use them for work to make life easier when I am on the go and a client urgently requires something as well as to indulge my passion for food and drinks as well as fitness,” says Shreya, the proprietor of SHK Consulting, a communications agency.
One of Shreya’s favourite apps is the iTorch which turns her phone into a hand torch when power goes off. When looking for a good wine, she turns to her Hello Vino app that teaches what wines go best with what food.
Though this is set for the US and UK markets, she says it works with some of the wines available locally.
Though most of her apps are international, Shreya also has some locally-developed apps including Eatout on her phone. Eat Out, is a local website that allows you to make reservations at any restaurant of your choice in the city.
Mikul Shah, the proprietor, says traffic has been growing since the launch of Eatout with massive jumps recorded over busy periods such as Valentine’s, Christmas and Public Holidays.
“While traffic growth is steady, conversions to bookings are growing even faster. On busy days, we are seating over 1,000 people at restaurants around the country,” says Mikul.
Ticketsasa.com is the country’s leading e-ticketing portal for events. Launched in August 2010, it offers an aggregated platform where customers can pay for tickets using mobile money, visa, MasterCard or Pesapal. It has an average of 300,000 page visits a month globally on its online platforms many of who range between the ages of 26 and 45.
Events such as Blankets and Wine, All that Jazz, Networking in Heels, The Mingle and Inspired Talks are some of the events for which they sell tickets.
Apps and websites offering e-commerce solutions are also gaining major popularity. Mobile money has made it easy for people to pay for goods and services from any part of the country and even from out of the country where possible. This has also seen an increase in e-commerce websites.
Rupu, OlX, Jumia and N-Soko Deals are some of the websites that Kenyans are logging onto to shop.
Rupu that offers its members discounted deals on a range of products and services. Everyday subscribers are sent emails with the latest deals ranging from goods, spa treatment and restaurant offers. Customers pay online and get a coupon.
“It’s still early days for the market and a lot of trust still has to be built before we can consider it mainstream. But at the same time, we are seeing a tremendous uptake of our service over the last 3-6 months and it can only get better,” says James.
The average Rupu customers is between 25 and 40 years with most being female, with at least 55 per cent accessing the site from their desktops and the others their mobile phones.
Most views are on weekdays, during office hours, with traffic slowing down over the weekend.
“We can definitely see that as soon as people get paid at the end of the month, demand products on the site rises,” says an employee.
It’s a win–win solution for all with customers getting great deals while merchants get new clients everyday. Rupu makes money for every successful transaction from the merchant.
Kenya has become the epicentre for innovation and development in Africa with many apps being developed and adopted beyond the borders. iHub, Nailab, iLab, growthhub, 88mph startupgarage and Safaricom academy are some of the incubators in the country that are helping drive this innovation.
Alexa.com, a leading provider of global web matrix, ranks Google as the most visited website in Kenya followed by social media site Facebook, then YouTube and yahoo.
OLX.com, an online trading platform, is ranked the leading consumer online marketplace in the country. Kenyans mainly access news social media sites and Gossip websites.
Other than retail and lifestyle websites and apps, Kenyan developers are also making solutions ideal for day-to-day life.
Farming and healthcare are two areas where Kenyans are developing solution apps. iCow is one such app offering advice to farmers.
Last year, Nigeria’s minister of agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, was named the Forbes Africa Person of the year for his efforts to develop the sector in Nigeria including rolling out a mobile app, which was developed in Kenya.
Electronic Wallet, developed by Cellulant, enables farmers to received electronic vouchers for subsidised seeds and fertilisers.